In the first eight of these zones‚ the renewable industry has already revitalised towns. A solar valley developed in the Northern Cape has brought billions of rand in investment‚ jobs‚ expertise and Spanish food to the province.
South Africa’s renewable energy programme has been constrained by getting power into Eskom’s grid. But now five electricity grid corridors will be created to expand access.
Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise said: “The identification of REDZes allows for the pro-active funding of grid expansion.”
New research by Meridian Economics recommended that Eskom decommission older coal-fired power stations. This would not harm the power supply‚ it said.
By 2030 eight coal-fired plants are expected to close and applications for renewable energy projects have flooded into the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Paul Lochner‚ manager of the CSIR’s environmental management services‚ said areas with the greatest wind and solar resources‚ highest need for socio economic development and least environmental sensitivity — that could be connected to the grid — were identified for the first eight REDZes.
The first round of identifying REDZes‚ from 2013 to 2015‚ was based on available data and involved expert and community consultation.
Abulele Adams‚ an environmental assessment practitioner at the CSIR‚ said: “In 2014 we engaged municipalities and the public in every area that would be affected during a travelling roadshow‚ and got mixed responses.